Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, many businesses have implemented a partial, if not complete, remote workforce strategy. Although many benefits have been brought to light, a remote workforce can pose a unique set of challenges for business owners. Here are some proven ways to make a long-term remote workforce business plan beneficial to both employees and employers alike.
Consider Using DaaS
Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is provided by third-party vendors that will manage your operating system, software, and applications in a centralized location in the cloud. This centralization makes it easy and efficient to operate a remote workforce securely and with full IT governance. All updates, patches, implementation, and maintenance are managed centrally while allowing employees, contractors, or others to access needed tools and data from virtual desktops. These virtual desktops can be accessed from nearly any device including laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, allowing businesses to embrace a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy for their remote workforce in an era where acquiring, staging, and shipping laptops has become burdensome.
DaaS also makes it simple to add and remove employees as your business needs change. Access and privileges can be managed centrally so that new employees can become productive almost immediately while access can be quickly revoked for those leaving your organization. Support costs can also be greatly reduced when Help Desk can simply issue a new virtual workspace when an employee has an issue rather than trying to access the problem.
Focus on Security
It’s no secret that some of the most significant cyberattacks in history have occurred during the pandemic. Why? It’s pretty simple. Businesses rushed to get people collaborating in new applications like Microsoft Teams or to expand the VPN to provide remote access to critical onsite applications and data in order to continue (close to) the normal course of business. While haste was important in March of 2020, it’s no longer an acceptable excuse.
With employees accessing your company’s critical systems and data from a variety of home routers, Wi-Fi connections, and personal devices, many new security vulnerabilities will arise. It’s time to reconsider your endpoint security and management strategy, remote access methods, incident and event monitoring, backup and recovery plans.
And while people may be your most important asset, they’re also your weakest security link. If you haven’t already done so, consider educating all employees about cybersecurity. It should be a priority for all team members, not just IT staff. Home computers tend to be the weak and vulnerable points in a remote workforce environment, often providing access for cybercrime. Implementing multi-faceted authentication protocols, cybersecurity training, and secure workflow practices and procedures can help mitigate threats.
Clearly defined expectations, while always a fundamental part of any business, become increasingly important when employees are working remotely. Since workers no longer have a distinct separation between their work life and their home life, provided by such things as a commute and brick and mortar office building, a good deal of structure can be potentially lost. You can help employees regain their equilibrium by establishing long- or short-term goals required work hours or communication guidelines. Knowing what is asked of them allows employees to regain some of the structure that they feel they may have lost.
It’s likely that your company has an overall vision that should set the tone for all departmental and personal goals. However, it’s more important than ever to clarify individual and team goals within a remote workforce. Be sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and anchored within a Time Frame. Help your employees take manageable, organized steps toward their goals, setting smaller objectives and expectations for each team. Good employees will rise to the challenge and working on common goals can help unite a team that’s geographically diverse.
Review individual and team goals periodically; perhaps a goal that was important six months ago no longer applies and it’s time to prioritize another more urgent objective. It may be helpful to organize weekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings where you can discuss what’s important to the company, what needs to be a priority, and what direction the team should be heading. You may also want to customize expectations for your employees as well, taking into account professional and career goals and development opportunities.
Communication is vital to any business whether they have a remote workforce or not. When working in person, employees have the benefit of physically seeing each other, stopping into a colleague’s office with a question, or grabbing lunch together. But when employees aren’t coming into the office for work each day, communication options are more limited.
The good news is that there are many virtual communications tools available. Whether it be emails, video calls, phone calls, or texts, employees can easily make use of different options when and where they make sense. That choice can create confusion. Consider building a communication tools matrix where you define expected response timeframes and acceptable content for each communication medium. For example, perhaps team members should communicate mostly through a project management platform or email, using chat or messaging only when something is urgent. Perhaps weekly video calls are scheduled to check in on project progress, brainstorm new ideas, troubleshoot current issues, or simply touch base on a more personal level.
Good communication should be a two-way street. Feeling isolated is common for remote workers and making a strong effort to listen is a great way to avoid this issue. Employees often have things to say, so be sure that they understand how and when they can communicate with managers or team members. Additionally, consider having a time and place where employees are free to make suggestions about the company. Including employees in decision-making will provide many different perspectives, and employees will feel heard and become more invested in the business, which boosts team morale.
Trust and Empower Team Members
Finally, a remote workforce can only be successful if there is a level of trust among team members and between employees and management. When everyone is operating under an honor system to complete their work, micromanagement of tasks simply will not be effective and can be downright detrimental to team productivity and morale.
Instead, management must define and communicate a clear team objective and each employee must understand their role. When individuals are empowered to complete their jobs using their skills, expertise, and judgment, they will successfully meet both personal and team objectives, furthering the mission of the entire organization.
Although managing a remote workforce can be challenging, it can be done successfully with the right technology, partners, processes, and workflows in place. If this is a direction that your company is heading, or if you’re solidifying how your organization will work post-pandemic, keep these tips in mind to ensure that your employees are happy and productive.